After missteps, Mesa County hires health director
Nebraska official first balked, then agreed to accept position
The director of a health department in eastern Nebraska formally agreed to become Mesa County’s public health director, weeks after turmoil within the county caused him to reconsider taking the job.
Jeff Kuhr, the current director of the Three Rivers Public Health Department in Fremont, Neb., will begin here Jan. 3, Mesa County Board of Health member Teresa Coons said.
Coons said the board selected Kuhr because he was responsible for the creation of the health department in Fremont and is interested in promoting health departments and making them more accessible to the public.
In addition, Coons said, “He seems to be somebody who is willing to take on challenges and take a fresh look at things. That’s important for our health department right now. We’re going through a period of transition, and we need a fresh, new look.”
The former Health Department director, Michael Aduddell, was demoted to medical officer as part of a departmental reshuffling in July. Aduddell now serves as a part-time medical officer.
Kuhr initially accepted the job in October but later rejected the position after learning about the upheaval occurring within several county departments. He also expressed concern about commissioners being too involved in the day-to-day business of county departments.
In an e-mail sent to Board of Health President Kristy Reuss Nov. 13 and obtained by The Daily Sentinel through a state Open Records Act request, Kuhr said a five-year contract with the county may convince him to reconsider.
“This would give us time to promote the value of public health among our current and potential stakeholders in anticipation of building a strong group of advocates,” Kuhr wrote. “I will then have to be hopeful that there will be a decent group of county commissioners in place once the contract expires.”
He also wrote that while he realized the Board of Health would be taking a risk by offering him a multiyear contract, “I feel that I’m taking a greater risk by not having one.”
Reuss responded in a Nov. 17 e-mail that state law prevented the county from offering him a multiyear contract. But she tried to assure Kuhr he would answer only to the Board of Health, and the board supports him.